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As the Women’s Initiative team returns from our mentor training sessions in Jordan this week, we are reminded of our friend Meral whose sudden passing came all too soon. She touched the lives of all of us, including her Women's Initiative Fellowship mentor Karen Hill. A key piece of the Women’s Initiative Fellowship is the development of an action plan. In Meral’s plan she wrote “It is time to change this destructive path (of culturally accepted sexual domination and abuse) and to inspire Egyptian women to lead the way to a new day for ourselves and our daughters.” Over the next several weeks, the Bush Institute’s Women’s Initiative Team will be working to ensure Meral’s action plan is completed. We look forward to sharing our progress as we get closer to making Meral’s dreams, a reality.
Below, guest blogger and mentor Karen Hill shares her tribute to Meral.
An Abundant Heart: Meral's Story
by Karen Hill
Meral and I met for the first time in the San Antonio airport. She had just arrived for our week of mentor/fellow conferencing. Our goal? To explore her plans and work together toward achieving her dreams for Egyptian women. We hoped to build a foundation on which her ideas could not just rest, but grow and become a reality.
We spotted each other on opposite ends of baggage claim. She dropped her bags and came running, arms open wide, smile as big as Texas, calling my name. That was Meral: big smile, big heart, big dreams. That was Meral--a foreigner in a strange city, welcoming me…into her life.
As our week went on, I witnessed the effect she had on those she met. Curious, smart, warm, and charming--she captivated her new friends. They all wanted to know about her plans and strived to encourage her.
In a word, she was …special.
We met with an executive whose foundation matches worthy initiatives with folks eager to share their wealth in positive ways. As Meral explained her ideas to educate and empower Egyptian women, the Director caught the vision and eagerly proposed a partnership.
We met with artists who shared ideas and concepts with her. She eagerly listened and questioned.
At my home, Meral experienced her first Easter egg hunt and left her autograph on our “Welcome Wall.” She wrote “thanks for your shelter and love.”
It was a good week, her childlike enthusiasm taking everything in. Her sponge-like desire to learn often prompted her to ask for clarification when the conversation lapsed into Texas-ese. “Fixin’? What means ‘fixin’?” She marveled at our cascarones. We sent some home to Egypt with her. I wonder if they made it home to Cairo without breaking.
Wonderful memories of a special friend and a special time together. But above it all remains Meral’s heart for Egyptian women. There’s a verse that says, “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” When she spoke, the abundance of Meral’s heart was unmistakable: concern for Egyptian woman locked in despair.
Though we all would say her life was too short, let us also say that the brevity of her life does not diminish the power of her influence. I, for one, am changed by her influence. Now I understand, and more importantly, care, about the women whose lives she hoped to improve.
Meral’s life mattered. She made a difference. Let her life indeed remind each of us to use our influence for good…for the good of our communities, our homelands, our world.
If your heart cares, let your words encourage.
If your heart loves, let your words comfort.
If your heart dreams, let your words inspire.
May the abundance of our hearts cause our words—and actions-- to reflect that same compassion we heard from Meral.
Charity N. Wallace serves as the Senior Advisor to the Women's Initiative at the George W. Bush Institute and is in an executive graduate program in pursuit of a Global Master of Arts degree in international relations from The Fletcher School at Tufts University. Most recently, Ms. Wallace served as the Vice President of the Global Women’s Initiatives and Senior Advisor to Mrs. Laura Bush. In this role, Ms. Wallace was responsible for setting the vision and managing the policy engagement for the women’s initiatives, including Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon global health initiative, empowering women in the Middle East and working with First Ladies from around the world. The Women's Initiative aims to improve access to education, health care, and economic opportunity for women and children in Africa, the Middle East and Afghanistan.
From February 2009 through September 2010, Wallace served as the Chief of Staff to Mrs. Laura Bush. Wallace oversaw Mrs. Bush’s initiatives - from her wide ranging policy agenda to her the publishing and promotion of Mrs. Bush’s bestselling book, Spoken from the Heart. Wallace served in the Bush Administration from January 2001 to January 2009. During her tenure in the administration, she served as Deputy Chief of Protocol of the United States (2007-2009), Director of Advance for First Lady Laura Bush (2004-2007), and worked in public liaison positions in Presidential Advance, the U.S. Department of Education, the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, and USA Freedom Corps. During her tenure in the Bush Administration and in her current role, Wallace has traveled to 70 countries.
Ms. Wallace serves on the Board of Advisors for the School of Public Policy at Pepperdine University, the Advisory Board of ARZU Studio Hope, the Advisory Board of 4word Women and the Advisory Board of All In Together, an bi-partisan organization that promotes women’s engagement in political and civic life. Ms. Wallace is an ex-officio member on the Human Freedom Advisory Council for the Bush Institute. Ms. Wallace wrote the foreword for the book Work, Love, Pray, which was released in 2011. A native of California, Ms. Wallace graduated magna cum laude from Pepperdine University with a Bachelor of Arts in political science, with a focus in international relations.Full Bio
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